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One of Canada’s Most Picturesque Cities

No visit to Victoria, British Columbia would be complete without indulging in Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel. Found on the waterfront of this picturesque small city of just under 100,000 residents in Canada’s westernmost province. Tourists from all over the world flock here to enjoy the scenic surroundings decorated with lush greenery, warm breezes, and waterfront vistas. The Empress Hotel, part of the Fairmont chain, is an imposing stone structure that has received distinguished guests since 1908. Walking the property, the lawns are perfectly manicured with large hydrangea flowers fragrantly dotting the grounds. The setting inside is equally enchanting with high-end boutiques, sprawling dining rooms and grand staircases.

A stone staircase and black steel railing are flanked with colorful hydrangea plants
Beautiful hydrangea flowers grace the grounds of The Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia

Afternoon Tea Requires Reservations

Reservations are demise.  I used a reservation system called Open Table but mistakenly reserved for lunch at the wrong dining room. The staff stepped in to fix the blunder with only a slight delay. Once inside, I quickly remarked that most of their tables are low tables in a parlor setting which not only lends to the easy flow of conversation but is more observant of traditional Afternoon Tea, often referred to as Low Tea.

People are seated at low tables for Afternoon Tea At The Empress Hotel
Low Tables Make For Easy Conversation During Afternoon Tea At The Empress Hotel

The dining room is luxurious and everything you would expect: the grand columns, ornate architectural details and imposing fenestration offering unparalleled views of the boats coming and going. It is a magical experience in a place where days seem to stretch just a bit longer than anywhere I have been before.

Teas For Every Taste

The Empress offers an extensive selection of loose leaf teas presented in a wooden menu behind glass, some of which are included in the price of Afternoon Tea and some that come at an extra $4 and premium teas that cost an extra $10. If you’ve been reading previous installments of the blog, it will come as no surprise that I selected the Cream Earl Grey. As I had the privilege of dining with my husband, he surprised me with his selection of Blue Suede Shoes.

The same pattern is used throughout the dining room. A pattern that Queen Elizabeth commissioned for her visit and used again 50 years later. The pattern is a mix of red florals and lattice ornamented by blue trim. A simple crown sits on the inside of the teacup. Matching individual teapots sit on warmers. Exceptional service has the tea poured at exactly the right time by attentive staff so that a fresh cup is always at your disposal.

The tiered tray brought to our table had the traditional array of savories, scones, and sweets. The egg salad sandwich on blini had a nice kick with a hint of horseradish. A milder combination of shredded carrot and the cucumber on rye added a nice balance to the course. The blue suede shoes tea, which pours blue and is fantastic with or without milk and sugar and paired well with the savories, accenting the flavors of the cucumber sandwich. The pacific smoked salmon offered a taste of the region while the ham and cheese offering was underwhelming.

Afternoon Tea Offerings at The Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C.

The warm raisin scones lived up to expectations leaving us wanting to stash a few for later. And the sweets course was well-balanced in its selection.

A plate full of desserts like macarons and earl grey shortbread cookies
A Fantastic Finish To Afternoon Tea At The Empress Hotel

I cannot express how much better this experience could have been if my teapot hadn’t looked like it had been dragged along the street. We paid over $200CAD for two people for Afternoon Tea including taxes and a 15% tip. For me, it is unthinkable that this teapot could be used to serve people at such an upscale establishment.

The spout of a teapot is cracked and chipped
Never Tie Your Teapot The Bumper Of Your Pick-Up Truck

Overall, the experience was a pleasant one. The food was good, but not extraordinary or remarkable in any way. The service was good and the atmosphere was delightful. Was it worth $85 per person? Absolutely not. We will reserve our time and money for one of the other venues in Victoria that offer Afternoon Tea like Buchart Garden’s or the Pendray Inn And Tea House on our next visit to this enchanting city.

We base our reviews on the following criteria:

  • ATMOSPHERE
  • TEA/FOOD SELECTION, QUALITY, AND TASTE
  • PRICE
  • SERVICE
  • CLEANLINESS

RATING: 6/10

$85.00 CAD/person

Visit us again next week for a new installment of our blog as well as a brand new contest. Enter to win a beautiful teacup in our monthly giveaway. No purchase necessary. See contest rules here.

Congratulations to Dina K., the winner of our October giveaway.

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